Ways to Save Money when you Eat out

During difficult economic times such as the present, many families are looking for any way they can to cut back on their expenses.  An obvious possibility is to reduce the number of meals eaten in restaurants, as it is generally less expensive—sometimes much less expensive—to make the same meal at home.  It just takes more time and effort to shop for the food and then prepare the meal.

But going out to eat is an enjoyable family experience, plus sometimes the extra time and effort to prepare every meal at home would be a substantial inconvenience.  So another possibility is to find a way to eat out without spending so much.  Here are some tips to consider:

1.  Choose less expensive restaurants

We’ll start with the obvious one.  There is not an exact correlation between the amount of money it costs to dine at a given restaurant and its quality.  There is even less of a correlation between the amount of money it costs to dine at a given restaurant and how much you and your family happen to like that restaurant.  If there’s a restaurant with $10 entrées where you typically enjoy the meal roughly equally as much as at another restaurant with $25 entrées, go to the cheaper one.

2.  Take advantage of specials

Many restaurants have early bird specials.  Or they have reduced price menus for seniors or children.  Or they promote different items on different nights of the week by knocking a couple dollars off the price.  Perhaps you’ve never been all that conscious of such specials before, but now is a good time to get in the habit of noticing them and using them to save money.

3.  Use coupons

You can find restaurant coupons in mass mailers in your mailbox, and in the newspaper.  But nowadays you can find them most often online.  One good source for special deals at restaurants is restaurant.com.  Or if you Google “coupon” and the name of the restaurant you’re interested in, or perhaps “restaurant coupon” and the name of your town, there’s a good chance you’ll find some online promotions worth checking out.  Often these take the form of buy one meal and get a second meal free, or buy one meal and get a second meal half off, which can translate into big savings.

4.  Drink water

One of the ways restaurants make the most money is on beverages.  You pay them $1-$3 for a soft drink or glass of tea that costs them a few cents.  If you can get into the habit of consistently drinking water when you eat out, the savings will really pile up over time.

5.  Consider a buffet

All-you-can-eat buffets are often fairly inexpensive.  Plus if you time it right, you can make a trip to a buffet restaurant take the place of one and a half to two meals.  Or maybe more; some people when they go to a buffet make it their only substantial meal of the day.

When you use a little strategy, and eat out with an eye on saving money, not only does it not have to be an unacceptable extravagance to dine in restaurants, but it might not even be much if at all more expensive than eating at home.